Chicago mayor and governor announce return of Auto Show at McCormick Place

Chicago mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Illinois state governor J.B. Pritzker joined elected officials, tourism backers and labour leaders, 4 May, in announcing the return of the annual Chicago Auto Show.

The event – the nation’s largest and longest-running auto show - marks the first large convention to take place in the city since the Covid-19 pandemic began and officials said they now expected to welcome other conventions and tourist events this summer with safety precautions in place.

The Chicago Auto Show will be hosted at McCormick Place 15-19 July and will be held both indoors and outdoors for the first time since it was opened in Chicago in 1901.  

“Around this time last year, McCormick Place was turned an alternate care facility that significantly aided our city during the first wave of Covid-19 - making today’s announcement all the more special,” said mayor Lightfoot.

“In the same spirit of collaboration between government, healthcare, community, and corporate partners, we are now able to bring conventions back to our beloved convention centre in a way that is safe and reflective of our progress in slowing and stopping the spread of this virus. I look forward to seeing the McCormick Place reopen its doors for the Chicago Auto Show this July and further enhance our city’s ongoing Open Chicago initiative."

Governor Pritzker added that, with strong public health protocols in place, the Chicago Auto Show will set the stage for the safe return of big events in the months to come.

“The lifesaving power of vaccinations and the hard work by the people of our city and state has led us here. In recent weeks, we have seen our statewide Covid case rates and hospitalisations flatten and begin to fall… To be clear, our fight against the virus isn’t over yet, but things are getting better,” the governor said.

McCormick Place and the Chicago Auto Show have worked closely with health and tourism officials to detail mitigation strategies to ensure the safety of every attendee, starting with a lower overall capacity for attendees. Among the safety measures in place:

• A move to Hall F in West Building with 470,000 sq. ft. (43,664sqm) of indoor space and 100,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space;

• Timed entrance windows and staggered entry to prevent congestion on the show floor and at arrival;

• Requirement to wear face masks at all times;

• Sanitisation stations throughout the event;

• Contactless delivery for tickets;

•  Temperatures will be scanned and a medical questionnaire must be filled out before entry is allowed into the event.

As the State of Illinois prepares to move into the less restrictive ‘Bridge Phase’, this announcement is part of the broader ‘Open Chicago’ initiative to safely and fully reopen the city

Chicago has made significant progress in reversing the rise in Covid-19 metrics that started in March and caused the City to pause the reopening plan. The Covid-19 test positivity rate has continued to drop and is now under 5%.

“We have seen steady progress in recent weeks with a downward trend in our leading Covid metrics and more and more people stepping up to get vaccinated, which is so important in getting us out of this pandemic,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady MD. That has made this exciting day possible.”

Statewide, 55%of individuals 16 and over and 79% of individual 65 and over have been vaccinated in Illinois.

Following a 28-day period of continued stability or decline in key Covid-19 metrics, officials say the state would then move into Phase 5, with all capacity limits lifted.

Larita Clark, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), emphasised the health measures, meanwhile, would not take away from the event experience. “We know that our guests, whether it is a family wanting to check out the new Jeep Bronco or a doctor seeking the latest clinical trial data, come here for a reason. We are glad that we are able to continue to provide the outstanding experience our customers expect without compromising on health and safety.”

In 2020, the entire McCormick Place campus was awarded GBAC STAR accreditation, the gold standard for health and safety in the industry. In January 2021, Choose Chicago and McCormick Place launched Healthy Meetings Chicago, a virtual experience illustrating the new convention experience.

“Prior to Covid, McCormick Place operations generated more than $1.9bn in economic impact to the city and state,” said Glenn Eden, chair of the Choose Chicago Board of Directors. “As we take this step forward and move toward reopening, not only is this a positive development for the health of our city, but also for the health of our economy."